COP25: Planet is close to a point of no return: UN chief

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MADRID
Secretary-General António Guterres urged countries Monday not to give up in the fight against climate change, as representatives from nearly 200 countries gathered in Madrid for a two-week meeting on tackling global warming. In his opening speech to delegates, Guterres cited recent scientific data showing that levels of heat-trapping gases have hit a record high, reaching levels not seen for at least 3 million years when sea levels were 10-20 meters (33-66 feet) higher than today.
Unless emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are sharply cut, temperatures could rise to twice the threshold set in the 2015 Paris accord by the end of the century, he warned. Do we really want to be remembered as the generation that buried its head in the sand, that fiddled while the planet burned? Guterres asked. His appeal came after Chile’s environment minister, Carolina Schmidt, said the Dec. 2-13 meeting needs to lay the groundwork for moving toward carbon-neutral economies while being sensitive to the poorest and those most vulnerable to rising temperatures something that policymakers have termed just transition.

More than 50 world leaders have gathered for the 2019 United Nations Climate Change (COP25) conference at Madrid’s IFEMA convention centre. The event was supposed to take place in Chile but was moved due to civil unrest in the country. The Climate Summit, which should lay the framework for a new phase of climate action, starts today in the Spanish capital. COP25 is the last UN Climate Summit before 2020 when many nations must submit new climate action plans.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that important decisions must be taken now to limit emissions that cause the greenhouse effect. Guterres claimed that the planet is close to the point of no return and urged all countries to be more ambitious and cut pollutant emissions as this is critical time to combat climate change.

Climate change’s ‘unequal’ impact on different countries and social groups has been marked by world leaders. Chilean environmental minister Carolina Schmidt claimed that the way climate change affects the world is unfair as it mainly hurts vulnerable people, communities and countries. S House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi also mentioned that the climate crisis should be addressed in terms of economic and environmental justice for all.

We all believe that we have a moral responsibility to future generations to pass on this planet in a better way, the best possible way, Pelosi said during the opening ceremony. The path to decarbonisation was also highlighted as one of the main goals of states to fight climate change, one of the outstanding issues from the last climate summit held last year in Poland.

We need a rapid and profound change in the way Humanity does business, generates energy, builds cities, moves and feeds itself, eliminating our addiction to carbon, Antonio Guterres said. He urged especially to abandon fossil fuels and regulate carbon markets. We must reach the Glasgow summit in 2020 (COP26) with much more ambitious national contributions and these long-term strategies must lead to orderly, fair and efficient decarbonization. Spain is ready to take that step forward, Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is attending Madrid’s conference as her first official act. Von der Leyen has set high targets in the European Union’s policy to combat climate change, pledging to reduce the bloc’s carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2030.

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